Every time she drives along 316 toward Athens, Stacey Evans feels a slight thrill, remembering when she first came to the University of Georgia from Ringgold. She was the first person in her family to attend college, and she couldn’t have done so without the HOPE Scholarship.
“This is where life started for me,” she told those attending Thursday’s meeting of the Clarke County Democratic Party. At the university, she became involved with the Young Democrats, thinking that doing so would give her a chance to help families like the one she had come from.
Evans showed a brief video about her background, including her hardscrabble, rural childhood. Viewers learned that her single mother had her as a teenager, held various menial jobs and went through a series of boyfriends, some abusive, before marrying Evans’ stepfather. Evans moved 16 times as a child, one step ahead of bill collectors.
She graduated from high school with the required B average to qualify for HOPE, and after graduating stayed in Athens to attend law school, where she met her husband. The first piece of legislation she encountered as a new state representative in 2011 was a bill reducing benefits for HOPE recipients.
Evans said she fought against those changes, for college and technical college students, while her Democratic rival, Stacey Abrams, signed on to the HOPE cuts. Today, Evans believes there should be tuition-free technical education and funding changes for HOPE, such as means testing.
She also endorses expanding Medicaid so people can worry about getting well, not wondering where their care is coming from. As an attorney, she was part of a team that prosecuted one of the largest cases of Medicaid fraud, netting taxpayers $324 million. From her part of the settlement, she took $500,000 and set up a scholarship in the UGA School of Law to benefit first-generation college graduates attending law school.
Abrams, Evans said, voted to reduce the early voting period, a measure she voted against. The 2011 bill reduced early voting from 45 to 21 days before a general election. Evans said she supports comprehensive civil rights protections for everyone.
While Abrams was in San Francisco raising money, she weighed in on the controversy over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence against African Americans, saying that peaceful protest is necessary and should be celebrated. Evans said she believes people can “pledge allegiance and exercise freedom when we stand and when we kneel.”